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Asbestos and Workers’ Compensation

Robert Huber

Workers all across the U.S. find themselves at risk to exposure to asbestos as a result of dangerous working environments. This exposure can lead to serious health ailments, most particularly Mesothelioma, which kills over 32,000 people each year worldwide. In the U.S., three thousand people were diagnosed with the disease in 2015. While this number is small relative to the total population, the fatality rate is extremely high, which is why it’s important to understand the risks of asbestos exposure and what financial compensation you may be entitled to in the event that this leads to serious health complications.

Time Frame

The statute of limitations vary from state to state with regards to asbestos exposure. It often takes many years before serious health defects are diagnosed. The good news is that employees suffering as a result of their contact with asbestos have time to file their claims. In most states, workers have up to five years to file for workers’ compensation after being diagnosed. California is an exception to this case, as workers have only one year to file for compensation, which is significant because the state carries a higher risk of asbestos exposure than most.


Determining culpability can be a complicated process. The important rule to understand is that an employer cannot be sued by a worker as a result of health complications from asbestos. They are eligible for workers’ compensation, and a large number of companies carry insurance specifically to mitigate this, but you cannot sue them for personal injury in court. That being said, as points out, defining an employer can be tricky, especially when you consider that many of the workers exposed to asbestos are contractors.

Let’s say that you worked at the same plant for over 30 years as a contractor. The company that owns the plant is not necessarily considered your employer. As is often times the case in this industry, plants often have contracts with other companies to provide outside labor, so it’s important to analyze who is actually paying your bills. The company signing your checks is considered the employer and would thus provide you with workers’ compensation. If you were working for an outside agency as a contractor, you would thus be able to sue the plant you worked at for damages because they technically aren’t your employer, the outside agency is. This is why employing the services of a seasoned legal professional is essential to understanding the nuances of your case in the event that you do suffer complications from asbestos exposure.